A Christian businessman tells this story -- the sun was shining brightly on a cold January day, and I was running late to work. The only thought I had was – “I’ve got to get to my office as quickly as possible.” As I approached a red light, I noticed a stalled truck on the right side of the road…and I gave him a passing thought – “poor guy.” But, then my busy mind hurried on to how I was going to handle the problems that I knew this day would throw in my lap. The sound of a knock on my window caused me to jump – it was the driver of the stalled vehicle. “Do you have a moment? My truck won’t start and I just need someone to give me a boost -- I have the booster cables.” I looked at my watch. As late as it was, I didn’t even have five minutes to spare. My boss would be frantic…I could even lose my job. My response was a stammered – “I’m sorry, sir, but I can’t today…I am already late for work.” “I understand,” he said, and then he walked to the car stopped behind me. I told myself that surely one of the next few cars that came by would have time to help this poor guy. In reality, when the light turned green, I drove away feeling awful! I couldn’t help but think of the story of the Good Samaritan – was I the Priest or the Levite? To ease my conscience, I even mentioned the incident to my boss later that day. As expected, he commended me for my decision to press on. His confirmation didn’t help ease my guilt…however – how often do I follow my own agenda ahead of the one that my heavenly Father has set out for me? All too often, when I ask God to sit in the driver’s seat of the car of my life, I act like a back seat driver – “Don’t turn right!” “Be careful!” “Slow down!” Oh, there are also times when I put my back seat driver’s license in my pocket – these are the times when I literally wrench the wheel out of God’s hand on my personal autobahn of life.
Perhaps you can relate to this person in some way…I know that this has been “me” from time to time. Luke shares a story with certain similarities in relationship to two sisters, Mary and Martha…Jesus’ friends…and how they respond to Him. In referencing this particular Bible story, I want to keep in front of us the importance of the ladies in our lives and the influence they have on us…because, if we are married, our greatest responsibility at home is to treat them with love and respect.
In Romans 12:1-2, the apostle Paul helps us to understand that a general definition of worship, latreia, is at the heart of all that we are and all that we do in the Christian life. We are to live lives of service for the Lord as we “work out” our salvation, living as “Good Samaritans”. But, before we can effectively minister in these ways, we need to spend some time with our Master and learn from Him…taking some “time to be holy.” Mary of Bethany…one of several “Marys” in the New Testament…is seen three times in the gospel record, and on each occasion, she is in the same place – at Jesus’ feet! In John 11:32, it is in relationship to her agonizing over the death of her brother Lazarus, and in 12:3 it is in relationship to her anointing Jesus feet. Mary, and her sister Martha, are often contrasted as though each believer must make a choice -- you can be a worker, like Martha, or a worshiper like Mary (Luke 10:38-42). This does not necessarily make worship and work an “either/or situation,” but it seems evident that, at least in the situation that is presented here, that one takes precedence over the other. Consider…Martha receives Jesus into her home, and then, as it appears, she neglects Him as she prepares an elaborate meal that He does not necessarily need. There is nothing wrong with her doing this, in and of itself, but the point is – what we do with Jesus is more important than what we do for Jesus.
Mary has likely done her share of work in the kitchen…I am sure a few of you can relate…but she then goes to “feed” on the Lord’s teachings. Soon, Martha feels neglected after Mary leaves the kitchen…and so she begins to complain, suggesting that neither the Lord nor Mary really care! Martha would have profited from what Jesus shares in John 15:5 that says – “without me, you can do nothing.” We may be on the go, go, go…just like we’re on that autobahn, speeding along…and we wonder why we do not have the spiritual energy or fortitude to deal with all of life’s offerings and struggles(?). Few things are as trying, and perhaps even troubling for the Christian, as trying to work for Christ without taking time to commune with Christ. In this situation, Mary chooses the better part…the part that could not be taken from her. She knew that she could not live on “bread alone” (Matthew 4:4).
Writer and sociologist, Gordon Govier says, “Time affects us all equally, although there are those who believe that it seems to pick up speed as we get older. But, most of us agree that we don’t have enough of it. When Charles Hummel wrote his classic essay, Tyranny of the Urgent, in 1967, he identified the telephone as among the worst offenders against our peace and contemplation. And that was before we carried it with us everywhere, embellished with e-mail, computers, cameras, downloadable ring tones and music files. Hummel passed away in 2003, but his concept remains. The main issue, Hummel states, is not so much a shortage of time, as a problem of priorities…or as a cotton mill manager once told him – “your greatest danger is letting the urgent things crowd out the important.” The essay points to the gospel accounts of Jesus who never seemed to be in a hurry, even when His friend Lazarus was dying. Quoting Mark 1:35, Hummel saw the secret of Jesus’ life and work for God in that “He prayerfully waited for His Father’s instructions.” Govier concludes in a way that is thoughtful and helpful…several years ago, I felt the weight of undone and half-done obligations weighing on me and realized that a big part of the problem was perspective. Instead of complaining about why I was getting loaded down with so many responsibilities, I concluded that I should thank God that He was allowing me to be involved in many good things that I enjoyed doing and was really interested in. Sure, I should be smart about not over-committing myself, but I was conscientiously and prayerfully considering my schedule in relationship to what I felt God wanted me to be involved in…then, I felt I could trust Him to make certain the priority things got done.
On our autobahn of life, it is really important to – stop. We have simply got to take some time to slow down, and even stop, in the midst of our busyness and spend some meaningful time with the Lord, and with our family. We need to make and take time to be the men, husbands, fathers that the Lord would have us to be. We need to spend some time in prayer every day…by ourselves, but also with our wives, and with our kids. We need to do the same thing as it relates to reading the Word of God. We also need to spend some meaningful time with our wives and kids. If we are going to be “men of vision,” we must close our eyes to the whole world swirling around us on a regular basis and focus on the matters of life that truly matter. And I really can’t tell you how that “looks”…what “your vision” should be, individually or collectively. But, I do hope to consider an effective vision of what the Lord wants for us. We serve a Master to whom a “day is to a thousand years and a thousand years is to a day.” He knows our busy schedules…he certainly understand us better than we know ourselves. And as I have been known to say – I am not really going to be any good for the church or anyone else if I am not taking care of my business at home with my wife and family.
In Matthew 14, Mark 6, following the death of His cousin and friend, John the Baptist, Jesus needed to have some time alone with His Father. “Now when Jesus heard of it, He withdrew from there to a lonely place by Himself” (Mt 14:13). Still, people would follow after Him. But, even later in the chapter (14:23), we see that He would go up to the mountain to pray after sending the multitude away. Jesus knew how to “Stop” and “Yield.” We live in a culture where it is so easy to be seduced by the secondary, and distracted from what matters by sports, the internet, work, family, etc…all good things. Friends…the embodiment of the ancient faith is all about a personal relationship with Jesus. We need to follow the example of our Lord and so many other faithful believers who make the time to spend some time, one of one with the Lord. It is here that we meet our Lord in the most basic of ways through prayer, study, and meditation. Then, our lives…ministry, work, play…can truly be efficient and effective.